By Josh Cohen
Aug. 31, 2017
ORLANDO — In his prior participation in international competition, Evan Fournier was merely an auxiliary piece on stacked rosters. He averaged 15 minutes of playing time and a shade under seven points in France’s deep runs in the 2014 FIBA World Cup and EuroBasket 2015 combined.
With Tony Parker retired (and injured) from his national team and other distinguished French stars like Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum sitting this tournament out, Evan Fournier’s role is amplified at EuroBasket 2017.
Expected to be one of the primary offensive weapons for a country that has flourished in recent FIBA tournaments, Fournier was spectacular in the opener. The Orlando Magic swingman recorded a game-high 25 points and buried a game-tying 3-pointer with 25.9 seconds left in overtime.
However, France had no answer defensively for Finland down the stretch of regulation and the extra session in a stunning 86-84 loss on Thursday in Helsinki. Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen led Finland with 22 points and American-born Jamar Wilson connected on a game-winning driving bucket with five ticks left.
In addition to uncovering his leadership qualities, Fournier was ultra-aggressive and displayed tremendous poise in a boisterous environment.
A few of Fournier’s most significant plays from Thursday’s game came late in the fourth quarter. France relied on Fournier and his nifty footwork, playmaking abilities and smooth shooting touch.
Fournier converted on a crafty AND-1 drive with 5:47 left in regulation and then on France’s ensuing possession made a wise kick-out pass to Boris Diaw for a wide-open 3-pointer. Fournier also hit a huge triple of his own with 2:23 remaining and dropped in a go-ahead floater with 33 seconds left before Wilson countered with a tying-layup on Finland’s next possession.
Set to start his sixth NBA season and fourth with the Magic, Fournier shot 8-of-15 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists.
Nando de Colo tallied 21 points but missed potential game-winning shots at the buzzer in regulation and overtime.
France will look to bounce back in Group A pool play when it takes on Greece on Saturday. The top four teams from each of the four groups advance to the knockout stage. The French have finished no worse than third place in each of the last three EuroBasket tournaments. They claimed the title in 2013.